Lest you think this is a snowbound hellscape with naught but brown lawns and skeleton trees:

That’s the view from the 333 building skyway, or whatever they’re calling it now. SPS, I think. As you can tell, the snow was banished, but that’s normal; the year always begins with feints like this. Usually. Some years you get the big perma-dump that seals the fate of the world for six months.

I am taking a break from ordering hot sauce. I think this one has notes of coffee, toothache, and civet musk. I’m always keen to try something that doesn’t try to bazooka my head off with HEAT, as if the amount of discomfort you suffer is a mark of good hot sauce. The other day in a local subreddit the know-it-alls were sneering at a theoretical suburban diner who thought “Cry Baby Craig” was good hot sauce, the way the beer dorks look down on someone whose preference isn’t insufferably hoppy. It was such a mainstream opinion. Noobs and normies discover Craigs and think they’re a conno-sewer now.

I’d call them gatekeepers, except there is no gate. Eeryone’s walking in through the big open door over there that isn’t blocked by some guy who mistakes capsaicin tolerance for a personality.

Look at these people enjoying this thing without realizing they are wrong is one of the main sources of sadness on the internet.

Note: Cry Baby Craig's is really good. It is flavor-forward, as they say.

Why did I have to take a hot-sauce-ordering break, though? It’s not as if ordering hot sauce is particularly taxing, and I have to regroup; I was doing it on my phone, and realized it would be easier on my desktop.

Except . . . it’s probably not. I have all any devices set up to sync credit card info and mailing address, so ordering on the phone should be just as easy. But somehow - and this surely is a generational thing - the idea of buying something on my desktop feels substantial, and the idea of doing it on my phone seems like I just liked a tweet or dictated a text. The phone is a portal to the world of wind; the browser is a window into a series of rooms, with solid furniture and perhaps a whistling kettle. It's a remnant instinct, and it's fading. But not gone yet.









Not a review! An account of tropes. A rondelay of tropery.

The standard for alien invasion shows, in my mind, was War of the Worlds. Which one? Both. The 1950s version is solid. The Tom Cruise version, which may or may not be derided by the Sci-Fi Experts, can’t tell - was absolutely harrowing and relentless, even if it did lose a bit of steam in the last third. (The way it ended - sorry, spoiler - with the couple from the 50s version meeting our wandering band at the end was . . . so Spielbergian.) Everything was soaked in dread, and then terror, and then unending hopelessness.

“Independence Day” is a cartoon. It’s fun. But it’s silly. Will Smith would have broken every bone in his hand after he slugged the alien. And yes I’ve seen in 11 times.

AppleTV+ has a show called . . . Invasion. I’ve watched one ep. So far it does, and does not, fulfill the standards of the genre:

1. People looking up to the skies, nervous and unsure: check! One example, at the start. Something falls in the desert, and a Bedouin-type guy confronts something that I’m still trying to process, because it is literally the most alien thing I’ve ever seen. It makes no sense. It’s a brilliant touch: no, you’re not going to get snarling lizards with backward-jointed legs who make breathy wet panther-growls.

2.Is- Human Drama that will make us root for people who must come together in the face of a world-ending situation: yeeessss, but it’s curious how they do it. The show spends about half its time on a Perfect Family that does all the Perfect Family things: the kids bound into the bedroom and wake up Dad and laugh and attack him and he has to be the big scary bear! And then they have pancakes!

I am so tired of Dad-is-Bear-Then-Pancakes! in TV shows, because it usually means he’s cheating on the wife, who’s saintly, smart, professional, supremely capable, and also effortlessly attractive. I cannot remember the last time I saw a TV show in which The Wife was anything less. Modern lead-character female characters are Strong and Resilient and Overworked. They may have a flaw or a shortcoming, but nothing that detracts from being amazingly strong, resilient, and overworked. It's nice when they get to be people, but you can't have everything.

Of course, stuff happens just as she’s confronting him with his infidelity, and they have to PANIC BOND to save the kids, whose ages are Adorable and Preternaturally Thoughtful.

3 . Is there an archetypal lawman? Check! It’s Sam O’Neill, who - get this - is retiring at the end of the day. He’s grizzled. Oh, you may call him an Old Man - the skinhead meth Nazis do - but you’d be wise not to underestimate him. He's got some moves under his belt. His wife is saintly and beams with love and concern.

4 This is the most important: cable news shows of odd events happening elsewhere in the world. Birds bursting into flames, strange objects in the sky, etc. The way it’s usually employed: one of the characters we’re following is looking at the news with an expression that’s somewhere between blank and concerned, and the disorder on the screen faintly registering, but they’re really worried about Bob and where he's been and why he had a condom wrapper in the jeans she put in the wash. The moment there’s a key in the door she mutes the TV, and we see the disorder in the background while they argue. Boy, if only they knew how much this won’t matter!

5 Lesbian Japanese Astronaut drama. Check! Yes, yes, I know - oldest cliche in the book.

I can’t wait to watch the second ep. Why? Because for all the box-ticking and cliche-fulfillment, it did a couple of things that took a sledgehammer to your expectations. And I can imagine without difficulty how they’ll spoil them. But for now, I’m in.

UPDATE: Two eps in, it’s the same thing: this show takes forever for the reveals, and that’s great.



UPDATE 4: Okay not like that




It’s 1941.

This was no small thing:

Texaco announced “All-Night Service” along every major highway for the summer season. And you’d have the clean comfort of a Registered Restroom, too.

That take a bit of explaining, but one of Texaco’s selling points was the guarantee of a clean bathroom.

To this day, it’s a challenge.

In the summer of 1941, few had any idea that tires would be an exceedingly rare thing the next year, and if they’d known, you wonder how many would have swapped out the old for the new.

Cost for a new set: over $25, it seems, but not by much.

This . . . is quite the surprise.

George Price drawing an Elsie ad. Now I’ve seen everything.

If he drew her, that is. I’m not so sure.

This pudding seems like a hell of a lot of work. Now we just buy the stuff in plastic cups.

Lucky her! And she’ll be cursing it the day she sees the new Shelvador models, but never mind.

Was there a problem with fake Frigidaires?

Oh, these wretched things:

“Every time.” Yeah, well, maybe at first. And they still turned 3 cubes into fast-melting shards. And if your hand was wet, handling this thing led to a loss of skin.


Oh that’s sweet! Good thing they haven’t invented permanent markers yet:

“Whatever it is, it’s superb!”

Like I said, 1941. Last chance. For a while. For the duration.


  That'll do. Off now to the clean-up portion of this year's comic updates.




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